Christmas. It seems to get earlier and earlier, doesnít it? With boxes of baubles and mince pies already taking over the aisles of our local supermarkets, you may be tempted to stick your head in the sand and ignore it for a few more weeks.
But, by starting your festive preparations earlier, you can turn the Christmas creep (yes it's a real thing) to your advantage, by getting a head start without breaking the bank.
First things first: set a budget
According to research by the Money Advice Service, the average family spent £530 celebrating Christmas in 2015, with most money being spent on presents, food and drink, as well as cards and decorations.
Get a clear idea of how much your Christmas is likely to cost you by using this really useful Christmas Planner from the Money Advice Service.
Donít forget to include all those hidden extras that can creep up on us in the run up to the big day, including the trip to see Father Christmas or the pantomime.
Take an honest look at the total cost. What can you actually afford to spend this year? How much can you realistically save between now and Christmas?
This is a perfect opportunity to look at ways in which you can trim the budget Ėweíve got some great tips to help you do that:
1. Boost your budget
Make room for new toys and create some Christmas funds in the process. Local selling groups on Facebook are brilliant for this Ė try Toytastic, or another selling group in your area.
Or maybe you could introduce a takeaway ban from now until Christmas Ė youíll soon see the savings mount up.
Tip: Need somewhere to stash your extra cash? You could set up a BCU Christmas Saver account, so you are not tempted to spend your funds on something else.
2. Make a no-spend / low-spend pact
Get in early and talk to friends and family. If you canít afford to splash out this Christmas, nowís the time to say something Ė youíll probably find other people are in the same boat. How about only buying for kids? Or setting a £5 limit per person?
3. Itís a family affair
If you have a large extended family, why not organise a family secret Santa, or buy a present that the whole family can enjoy?
You could also get family members to contribute money to big-ticket items on your childís wish list, using a gift list service like Patchwork Present.
4. Make it
Have a talent for baking, sewing or knitting? Then why not make your loved ones gifts this year? Itís a great way to save money and add the personal touch.
Donít forget to make sure you leave plenty of time to put your crafty plans into action Ė otherwise you might be tempted to panic buy.
5. Start shopping
But not without making a list! Write down everything you need to buy between now and the big day Ė and stick to it.
If you start your Christmas shopping early, you have time to compare prices using comparison websites like Kelkoo. Or why not shop with a friend and take advantage of the many 3 for 2 offers on the high street, and split the cost?
Tip: Make sure you keep a list of everything youíve bought so you donít end up buying the same item twice!
6. Second time around
There are a wealth of vintage and second hand shops in Bristol and Bath. Why not ditch the high street stores and have a rummage around your local charity shop?
Shopping for your Christmas presents here can help you save money and help the environment and a good cause too. Youíre also more likely to find something unique for that hard to buy for person!
Would you do your Christmas shopping in charity shops? We love this article about a family who did just that.
Got more ideas to add to this list? Share them with us on Twitter with the hashtag #LowCostXmas, or over on our Facebook page.
Need some help spreading the cost of Christmas, Our Everyday Loans let you borrow as little as £100, and pay it back in affordable chunks. Find out more.
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